Category Archives: Joy

Silence . . .

silence

Four hundred years of it to be precise.

No prophecy.

No revelation.

Nothing.

Did HE forget about US?

I know we have forgotten Him many times. But, did He finally give up on us?   We are living as captives in our own country, it is occupied territory. Did He forget His promise? We are supposed to have a KING, not some emperor in  far away land.

Which reminds me, aren’t we supposed to be the nation others look to for hope? Because, right now, I can’t remember the last time I had hope. I remember being taught the songs of our people. Songs of hope, songs of joy, songs of expectation, songs of exultation,  and songs of lament. Lately it is one of those last ones that springs to mind. You know the one, it starts out, “How long, O Lord? How long?”

Indeed, how long? . . .

AND THEN! . . .

Then, an angel of the Lord  stood before  us,  and the glory of the Lord  shone around us, and we were terrified.   But the angel said to us, “Don’t be afraid,  for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior,  who is Messiah  the Lord,  was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you:  You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”   Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth  to people He favors!

Wait, what?

A Baby?

No, not just a baby, a savior. Finally! A Savior! Descendant of Kings.

Can it be?

Dare we hope?

I have to see this for myself.   And there He is! So tiny, so frail, so ordinary. Wait! No, not ordinary. Just normal, like me. But He is so much more too. He is special. The angel called Him a Savior, our Savior. My Savior.

Wow! Now my soul is reminded of another song. This one is at the end of the book. It goes like this (in case you don’t remember it),

Praise the Lord

Hallelujah!

Praise God in His sanctuary.

Praise Him in His mighty heavens.

Praise Him for His powerful acts;

praise Him for His abundant greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet blast;

praise Him with harp and lyre.

Praise Him with tambourine and dance;

praise Him with flute and strings.

Praise Him with resounding cymbals;

praise Him with clashing cymbals.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.

Hallelujah!  

Indeed, Hallelujah!

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Filed under Christmas, Doxology, GRACE, Joy, Psalms

The Babe and The Lamb

Sorrow.  It is an emotion we feel too little of.  Why sorrow?  Because there is blood on our hands.  Blood?  Yeah, blood.  Innocent blood at that.  I am a murderer.  I killed the Son of God.  I am guilty.

 

There is no sugar coating it.  There is no downplaying possible.  The Holy One,  Jesus, the Righteous.  That is who I killed.  I pointed my finger at God and cursed Him.  I drove nails through the hands and feet of His son and I mocked His death.

 

And then God spoke.

 

He did not speak words of wrath or condemnation.  He spoke words of love, and forgiveness.  He spoke of reconciliation.  He spoke of adoption.  He spoke of peace.

 

You see I live in the 21st century.  Jesus lived in the 1st century.  But God knew me (the real, evil, wicked, wretched me) before He spoke the universe into existence.  And still He decided that He would send Jesus, His only Son, to be born of a woman and to live upon the earth He Himself cursed because of my sin.

 

He did nothing wrong!  Not a single solitary thing.

 

But we killed Him anyway.  Because if we didn’t we would have to admit that we were sinners.  We would have to look Him in the eye and see reflected there the sad truth.  The truth that His very presence was evidence that we were (and are) in desperate need of a Savior.  Maybe if we silenced Him we could stop hearing the silent accusation of our conscience — GUILTY.

 

But even at His execution we condemned ourselves.  We drove the nails and with each blow we proved our depravity.

 

The amazing part is that God knew what we would do.  Jesus knew that to be born was to ultimately be tortured and executed in the most horrendous way we could possibly imagine.  And yet He chose to come!  He chose to die.  And today He chooses to forgive.

 

You see, just as Christmas proves our guilt, it also provides hope.  Jesus came to earth because we needed a Savior, and that is why His birth is to be celebrated!  But His birth would give little hope if it were not for His death.  And His death would have nothing but terror for us if not for His grace and mercy.

 

We are, all of us, guilty.  Yet in spite of our guilt God chooses to love and forgive us.  We cannot forget, especially at this time of year, that we should look to the manger with hope and joy, but with sorrow too.  For if in the stall we do not see both a babe and a lamb we have missed the point.  He who brings us life and joy and peace bought it with His blood.  We, the guilty, are made righteous.  He the innocent is made The Passover Lamb.

 

So, please, this season worship the babe in the manger, but don’t forget He is also the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and that He was slain for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christmas, GRACE, Joy, SIN, The Gospel, Worship

Now about that Grinch!

I have often been accused of being the Grinch.  People think I don’t like Christmas.  To be honest I can understand where they get that impression.  So let me take a moment and set the record straight.  I don’t hate Christmas.

I do however get frustrated by all the baggage people  bring to Christmas.  I am not a fan of how people add to Christmas.  Christmas is about remembering  the birth of the Son of God.   It is about God stepping into time .  It is about the beginning of hope.  Christmas is about God being faithful to His promise.

I get frustrated because we talk about Jesus being “the reason for the season” and then act as if Jesus came for us to have a reason to act happy eat too much and then give Jesus a brief nod on Christmas day or Christmas eve.  We may even read the accounts in Luke or Matthew and pray.  But is that truly making “Jesus the reason for the season?”

Many a person hangs lights and decorates a tree that has no clue about the Savior whose birth gives them a reason to make merry.  But the angels whom the Lord sent to announce the birth of Jesus did not talk about parties and cookies.  The angels did not talk about trees and lights.  The angels declared the birth of a Savior!

We all live in a world torn apart by hate and fear.  We live in a world ravaged by the effects of sin.  Christmas is the first gleam of light that will one day drive all darkness away.  It is about the hope that one day all that is wrong will be made right, that all the pain will be soothed, and all the tears will be wiped away.

Christmas is a yearly reminder that this world is not as it should be.  It is a reminder that Christ came so that one day this world may be a thing of the past to make room for a new heaven and a new earth.

I love Christmas!  I love the Savior whose birth we celebrate.  And I love the hope that Christmas brings with it.  I may not get all excited about lights and tress and cookies etc.  But I am not a Grinch either.  I am just trying to look at Christmas in a way that is consistent with my beliefs.   I believe that Christmas must have a very specific focus.  I believe the angels said it best, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

There is no greater cause to celebrate than this!  God with us.  Emmanuel!

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Filed under Christmas, Joy, Thankfullness, The Gospel, Worship

When your heart should break, Rejoice!

Paul is writing the book of Philippians from jail. We already mentioned that. But it is crucial! To read this book without seeing Paul incarcerated is to go on a nature walk with your eyes closed. You may hear wonderful sounds but you are missing out on all the beauty. Paul is awaiting trial before Caesar. This would be a trial of Paul’s beliefs as well as His actions.

However, Paul was so bold in the ministry of the Gospel that even when imprisoned for his faith he was sharing his Lord with his captors. The guards were witnessed to regularly. The workers in the prison were constantly exposed to the message of Jesus. The situation was not great but Paul had had worse. He was not being beaten or abused he was basically under house arrest. As far as Paul’s track record goes this was the nicest imprisonment he had faced. So, why does he say that some are trying to cause him distress?

Well, Paul was bold in his witness and the fact that he was so bold even while in prison made others bolder in their witness. Paul was rejoicing in the fact that the Gospel was being preached with greater boldness. Unfortunately, there are always those who love to stir up strife and make people miserable. It was that crowd that decided if preaching of the Gospel made Paul rejoice then maybe if they did it in a given way maybe they could make Paul suffer.

Paul tells us that these people preached Christ out of strife and envy, with selfish ambition so that Paul would suffer. It is Paul’s reaction that amazes me. If I may paraphrase Paul says, “I don’t care why they are doing it I simply rejoice that Christ is being proclaimed, because Jesus being preached will always bring me joy.”

People were taking what Paul loved most and making a mockery of it. They were trying to cause pain, but Paul knew that in the end it was Christ that came through. And because it was Christ that was being proclaimed it was still good. Paul looked past the motives and the intents of people and saw the work he loved continue.

So what in your life is being meant to cause you pain? Turn it into praise! What is being said about you that is not true? Rejoice that your light makes the darkness angry! In short, when your heart should be breaking, Rejoice! It will give you the means to share the reason you have to rejoice –Jesus!

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Filed under Joy, Philippians, The Gospel

Phillippians: Rejoice, really?

This morning I find myself angry. Not fired up angry, but angry in the way that resembles a boiling cauldron or a red hot furnace. It is not explosive anger, just heavily fueled emotion. I know it is not right, so what now? I am in no mood to pray, yet I know I need to. I have not acted on my anger, and I know that, so far, I have not sinned because of it. So, I ask again, “what now?”

As I was being honest with myself I was reminded of Paul’s admonition to the Philippians — “Rejoice!” My initial response is to want to choke the life out of Paul. And then I get it! Paul is not writing from his couch comfortably pouring out platitudes that sound great and have no meaning. Paul is writing from his prison. He is under arrest because he refused to be quiet, because he had to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. He has no reason to rejoice, at least not in an earthly sense.

That is why Paul’s admonition cannot be dismissed. Paul is not delusional. He is not in some fantasy world. He is in the middle of real life hurt, and his message to his friends, who are suffering is, “Rejoice in the Lord!”

That last part is the key. To rejoice in trials is somewhat deranged. To rejoice in sorrow is not natural. So Paul does not tell his friends merely to rejoice, he tells them to, “rejoice IN THE LORD!”

So, how are you doing today? Angry? Sad? Depressed? Grieving? Focus on the Lord who brings joy despite circumstances. He can provide joy where none can be found without Him. You know what? I am still angry! But I know that what is making me angry is only temporary. So, despite the circumstances that are making me angry, I will rejoice. How about you?

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Filed under Joy, Philippians